Senate Bill Would Advance Kyoto Emission Goals

Published March 1, 1999

While the Clinton Administration has been reluctant to submit the Kyoto global warming protocol to the Senate for ratification, that body will soon take up legislation that effectively implements the treaty’s goals by encouraging business to adopt voluntary emission reduction standards.

Late last year, Senators John Chafee (R-Rhode Island), Connie Mack (R-Florida), and Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) introduced S. 2617, the “Credit for Voluntary Early Action Act.” The legislation would reward companies that voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, giving them tax credits they could use to comply with any system of emission controls that might be established after 2008. The legislation is aimed at advancing the emission reduction goals of the Kyoto Protocol, as 2008 is the year the United States would be required to start meeting its emission targets should the U.S. Senate ratify the treaty.

The bill would advance the protocol’s goals in two important ways. First, it would provide a payoff, albeit a symbolic one for the present, to corporations taking steps to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. According to news accounts, many corporations were “lobbying hard” to get legislation that would provide them with credits in anticipation of future emission restrictions. Those credits would allow companies to spread out their compliance costs over a longer period of time. Credits earned today could be a valuable commodity in the future, as unused credits could be sold to other companies desperate to meet their emissions targets.

S. 2617 presents a potentially significant windfall for the growing coalition of corporations that has endorsed the Administration’s global warming agenda. The bill thus provides a powerful tool in the White House’s lobbying effort to attract others to its pro-Kyoto bandwagon.

Passage of S. 2617 would also lay the groundwork for purely domestic efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation was written to apply to any legislation that may be passed to cut emissions, whether or not the Kyoto Protocol itself is ratified. Said Senator Chafee, “If the protocol is not ratified, and we end up with a domestic program to . . . control greenhouse gas emissions, the credits would be usable in that program.” The legislation not only rewards companies endorsing and implementing emission reductions, but also gives the Administration the option of advancing a domestic equivalent of Kyoto through federal legislation.